How Arturo O’Farrill brought the world together with Virtual Birdland

Over the past year, Arturo O’Farrill turned an incredibly challenging time for musicians into likely the most ambitious recording project of his career.

The multiple Grammy-winning pianist, composer and arranger recently released his new album Virtual Birdland, which was recorded live across a span of more than 50 online concerts.

On the new recording, O’Farrill and his acclaimed 18-piece Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra are captured performing with an array of special guests on 10 fantastic compositions — with all of the musicians joining the sessions remotely from their homes. The New York Times included Virtual Birdland in its list of the 10 Best Quarantine Concerts Online.

Since March of 2020, O’Farrill and his orchestra have presented programs with numerous guests and held master classes led by the likes of John Benitez, Papo Vazquez, Samuel Torres and others. Also led by O’Farill, the Afro-Latin Jazz Alliance has presented more than 100 programs over the past 12 months.

“When the pandemic began there was a national and global reckoning,” O’Farrill says. “We were blindsided, and even though the sky seemed like it was falling, we rose up and were determined to play music and heal others. Virtual Birdland is proof that we are interconnected globally even if we are not allowed to leave our homes. The featured musicians sat in their living rooms, bedrooms, or closets and contributed to the lives of thousands of unseen listeners. No immediate feedback, no discernible applause, no fancy concert halls, just the purest form of art there is, service to others.”

This heavyweight of Latin jazz recently joined us on Café Latino to talk about the new album and his other projects.



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